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Neighbor to Neighbor: Boro budget testimony gives community voice

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As I gathered my thoughts together to write the speech I planned to give at the budget hearings in Queens Borough Hall, I turned the radio dial. An unnamed man seemed to be in the middle of an address to a large audience. Before I could focus on what he was saying, there was a long silence, followed by him saying, hesitatingly, “It’s so hot in here.” There was another brief silence and then he apparently fell to the ground.

A unanimous groan from his audience let us know he had, indeed, collapsed. The male voice that followed explained that if you have a fear of public speaking, you should sign up for one of the courses at a school in New Rochelle. He did not say whether that poor soul lying on the floor had been one of their graduates, but I think we were to assume that was not the case.

At any rate, I did not appreciate having that ad plant one more iota of trepidation in my head about the speech I was to make the next day. My assigned speaking number was 100, scheduled for about 4:10 p.m. I opted to arrive about 3 p.m. because schedules are sometimes changed due to absentees, etc., and besides that, hearing the appeals of others, (including friends I don’t often have an opportunity to see), can be very interesting.

Before too long, Fred Kress arrived to speak on behalf of Queens Coalition for Parks, the Cornucopia Society, and Rosedale Civic Association Civilian Observation Patrol. Other Queens Coalition for Parks folks filed in, too, and spoke in turn, as I did, because the Department of Parks and Recreation has been hit very hard by the budget cuts and there are youth programs there, in the Police Department and Board of Education that should be maintained fully in my estimation. I spoke about all three of the latter and mentioned, particularly, the programs taught by the Vocational Training Center.

Activities through this center include building trades, clerical/office practices, chairside dental assisting, elder care, healthcare support services, food services, hotel and hospitality services, automotive repair and emergency medical training for students 17 to 21 years old. These programs are designed to help students during the transition from school to work — promoting the link between secondary education and the community. Besides their academic studies, they are placed, under actual working conditions, in a hospital, hotel, kitchen, building in the process of being built or repairs or automobile repair facility, etc. , according to their chosen field.

The work I have seen that has been done by these students has been as good as professionals could have done. Many please the business places where they train so much that they have received offers of employment right away — giving them a head start on a career in their chosen field, without having to “pound the pavement” or pay an agency fee. It seems to me to be a wonderful opportunity, not to be missed.

Getting back to the budget hearings, I am happy to tell you that our new borough president, the Honorable Helen Marshall and her deputy, the Honorable Karen Koslowitz, along with other members of the panel, displayed patience and fortitude above and beyond my imagination — on cushionless chairs, at that. I understand the hearings began about 9:30 a.m. and were not over until after 10 p.m. God bless them all!

My stint, from about 3 p.m. to about 9 p.m. — lengthened because I stayed to support friends — left me very hungry and not as uncomfortable as they must have been since I, at least, had my lumped up coat to sit on. Aside from that, Borough President Marshall was very attentive to everyone and seemed to me to ask all the right questions, and give whatever right assurances that could be given.

Bess DeBetham, who spoke in the morning as the chairwoman of the Laurelton/Rosedale Local Development Corporation, agreed with Fred Kress and me that we are very fortunate to have her in that vital post.

We were all lucky that day that the weather was just like spring. The windows in Room 213 at Borough Hall were opened to let a gentle breeze blow in, so no one had to be heard saying, “It’s so hot in here!” — hot enough from heat and nerves to make anyone collapse. Quite the contrary, we all felt invigorated by that positive experience. Thank you, Borough President Marshall.

Reach columnist Barbara Morris by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 140.

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